2 Investigators: Rail-Station Ruins Put Commuters At Risk

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(CBS) — Metra commuters are getting doused with water, slipping on floors and dealing with falling concrete.  In some cases, there have been serious injuries.

CBS 2’s Dave Savini looks at dangerous conditions at Chicago’s main train stations.

Metra commuters at Union Station face crumbling concrete and water pouring through holes in the ceiling. Concrete has fallen to the platforms, there are decaying ceilings and support beams, along with rusted and cracked concrete pillars. Commuters are forced to walk through this mess and across slippery floors.

Yasmin Stevens was heading to her train when she slipped on ice that formed from dripping water on a platform.  She shattered her ankle requiring two surgeries.

“They had to put a plate on this side with nine screws and another screw right here,” Stevens says.

Photos of the accident scene show a pillar wrapped in cardboard and plastic with water at its base. Now, four years later, it still has not been fixed.

“Thousands of people walk through,” Stevens says. “And they haven’t done anything.”

She had a settlement that covered her medical bills.

At Ogilvie Transportation Center, there are more leaks and injuries. Attorney Jeff Kroll had two clients who fell on wet floors commuting through Ogilvie.

“It’s not IF it’s going to happen – it’s WHEN it’s going to happen,” he says.

Both of Kroll’s clients were injured – one severely. His kneecap was shattered.

“They have a warning sign now that was not there then,” the attorney says.

Ten years and a $1 million verdict later, water still pours in the same spot.  Buckets seem to be the fix.

Another problem there: anti-slip coatings have worn away.

Back at Union Station with Dr. Gongkang Fu, a structural engineer expert at IIT, CBS 2 shows him the problems documented for weeks.

“I think that’s a hazard,” he says of the conditions.

CBS 2 found more than forty support pillars either rusted by water, or compromised by cracks, and found other pillars fractured from floor to ceiling. There were others with issues too.

“These cracks look structurally dangerous,” Fu said about one pillar.

Jeff Barnard, one of many commuters frustrated by the conditions, took pictures and videos of the problems.

“I pay over $2,000 a year for my train ticket, along with tens of thousands of other people,” he says. “It should be at least be a safe place.”

Amtrak runs the station, but six different public and government entities have what is called “air rights.”  Different ceiling sections are owned by different entities. Amtrak says some companies have made needed repairs, while Amtrak sued others that failed to do so.

At Ogilvie, Union Pacific is responsible for passenger safety on the platforms. As a result of our findings, they were contacted by Metra to make repairs to the leaking ceiling and to areas by doorways where the anti-slip coating had warn out. Union Pacific says they starting working on a repair plan immediately.

Here is Amtrak’s full statement:

When Amtrak gained control of the Chicago Union Station Company in 1984, nearly all of the north and south approaches to the station were covered by city streets and overbuilds on air rights sold by the previous owners of the station. Some of those buildings have changed hands multiple times and in every case Amtrak has taken steps to hold the owners responsible for protecting passengers, railroad employees and equipment.

In recent years Amtrak has filed suits in state and federal court to compel owners of these structures to maintain them properly, protect Amtrak and Metra passengers, crews, other station users and trains. These actions have been so far been successful, along with compliance by other owners who have worked with us cooperatively.

In some cases we have removed coatings that were deteriorating and presenting a hazard in order to inspect those areas and require replacement by the building owner. In some cases we have installed temporary structures or netting.

The City of Chicago has taken action, such as the area under Jackson Boulevard and a similar project starting soon on Adams Street. Work by the city on Canal Street is pending and will result in a substantial improvement in both the North and South Concourses.

Amtrak is taking responsibility for what is ours, including claims we’ve processed from portions of overbuild we own, and have quite publicly pursued action and reimbursement from others. Every station user expects that of Amtrak and we are taking action daily to meet our responsibility to protect passengers, railroad employees, other station users and railroad property.

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